Most things are viewed through the prism of politics today, whether you like it or not.
The recent midterm elections were preceded by all the usual talking points: “the fate of the country is at stake”, the “most important elections in our lifetime”, and my favorite, “this is where the country is saved or lost”. Many were predicting a “Red Wave” where Conservatives would take back the majority in the major halls of government, and the reality turned out to be more underwhelming. The Deep Red Wave was nothing more than a puddle of watered-down cherry Kool-Aid.
That means according to some: we are doomed. DOOMED. Might as well start building your bunkers now folks.
I can’t say I share that sentiment, but I also don’t find myself optimistic.
My feeling in the aftermath wasn’t disappointment or melancholy. It could best be summed up in a sigh and a shrug. Over the past year or so, I have become ambivalent about politics. There was a time when I was much more invested, to the point that it was a detriment to my mental and even spiritual health. I consider myself a Christian and someone who abides by common sense more than I consider myself a Conservative because what is considered to be “Conservative” is a… mixed bag to say the least. No matter what party you may affiliate yourself with, it is a Faustian bargain: whatever good you feel may be done, you are ingesting poison just the same. What has become of the cultural and political landscape in America can only be described as almost demonic in my eyes, and I don’t believe this is an accident. I think this is a feature of this fallen world, not a bug.
Back in 2014, Scott Alexander wrote a masterful analysis of a concept that he described (rather fittingly) as “Moloch“. Alexander looks at the broken systems of this world and asks the question: “If everyone hates the current system, who/what perpetuates it?” In Alexander’s eyes, the reason we as humans always find ourselves abiding within systems that inevitably breed dysfunction is because of the incentives offered. It is in our nature to focus on incentives for personal gain instead of the common good, and this will always inevitably create systems of dysfunction. These are more technically defined as “multipolar traps”, but he labels this concept as Moloch.
Now, if you know your Bible at all, Moloch was a pagan deity that many in the ancient world worshipped (including the Israelites for a time), and Moloch demanded child sacrifice. I find it extremely revealing that Moloch is (conceptually) Alexander’s reason behind the state of this fallen world. Alexander considers himself a transhumanist rationalist, not a person of faith, so for him, the way out of this trap is through our own rational human capacities and intelligence, and while that sounds nice, it will never happen. Why? Because we will simply exchange that god for another false one. I can’t help but think of Romans 1:18-32. Until we come to the one true God, we will always exchange Him for another Moloch.
The more I sit and think about our culture and all of its aspects, the more I feel that Alexander is right. All of us are finding ourselves more and more willing to deal with Moloch to get what we want, and in few places is this more apparent than in the political or social sphere.
What is Moloch? … Moloch is exactly what the history books say he is. He is the god of child sacrifice, the fiery furnace into which you can toss your babies in exchange for victory in war.
He always and everywhere offers the same deal: throw what you love most into the flames, and I can grant you power.Scott Alexander, Meditations on Moloch
Christianity has become lumped in with “Conservatism” and those who head the Conservative movement (Trump, whether you like it or not, is the face of Conservatism in America). This was of our own doing. Years of building fear and suspicion towards those in authority along with the quickly evaporating ground on our side of the “culture war” left us with a feeling of dread. “No, we can’t this person get elected… what will we do? Where will we turn? WHO will we turn to?“
In response, many of us took up that bargain with Moloch: “Throw what you love the most into the flames, and I will give you power.” Or, if we dispense with all the subtlety: “Hitch your Christianity to the wagon of a narcissist and hope he won’t throw you under his wheels.”
Thomas Sowell summed it up best when he said, “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.” So, we made our trade, hoping for solutions.
I think anyone who is able to disconnect themselves from the bubble and look at it from above will see this was a mistake, and we are already seeing that bitter fruit.
Churches have been split by party lines. Fellowship between believers was severed based on Facebook posts. Politics, not piety, became the measure for some to be considered “true believers”. Theology took a backseat to policy. The end result? Christianity and the Church have become associated in the culture with far more negative traits than positive ones (regardless of the truth of those associations).
And for what? Some victories in court? Leadership that gives people of faith lip service while exhibiting none of the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives? Temporary laws that will disappear once the “moral majority” has been voted out?
Many of us are going to wake up down the line and realize we will have lost far more than we gained.
When I decided to mentally disconnect myself from politics (at least as best as I could), my reasoning behind it was that I came to the realization that I was dangerously close to putting my faith and hope in something that wasn’t God. And it was incredibly painful to admit that to myself.
What are you really hoping for if you are hoping that your political team wins power? You’re hoping for a lesser god to make your life easier. You’re hoping for a lesser god to bend the world to your ego and your beliefs and your preferences instead of letting God bend you to His.
Andrew Breitbart famously said that “Politics is downstream from culture”, and too many of us, regardless of our political affiliations, fall into the trap of hoping that a change in politics will reverse the stream. It doesn’t matter whether it is possible or not: the source of the stream is tainted by the Fall. You can play in that water and fight it for as long as you can, but eventually, you will be taken downstream. Look at the state of the Church and Christianity today in America and you can see the culture war is already lost.
My brother predicted a couple of years ago that the culture is going eventually separate the wheat from the chaff, the true followers of God from the pretenders. Why? Because things are going to get harder. The pace of the current will only increase and more and more will find themselves surrendering to the flow. I think that time is coming upon us if it hasn’t already. Moloch will approach us all with his proposal, and all of us will have to make our choice. What are you willing to trade for power, comfort, or “victory”?
To attempt to play that game is to attempt to make Christ fit into our political and ideological boxes. And this does nothing but pervert Christ into something incredibly dangerous – a false god that we feel should bend the world to our wishes. And when this happens, we don’t look at others as fellow souls in need of a savior just like us, we look at others as the enemy. What is worse is that we begin to look for enemies within our own communities.
Deep down, I think all of us want the world to fit into a mold of our liking because it is the nature of our flesh to resist being shaped by the Master. God isn’t a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Communist, or Green Party member, and we put these labels on Him at our own peril. God won’t let you put Him anywhere. And if you decide to make yourself (or someone else, or some other crippled ideology) the god of your world, you only put yourself in a prison that will destroy you.
I feel too many Conservatives find themselves thinking about the “good old days.” A lot of this can be boiled down to economics, the era of the “moral majority”, or the desire for a “simpler time” (idealized through the tainted lens of nostalgia). But why? I know have fallen into this trap too, more often than I would probably care to admit. A few months ago I came across this verse in Ecclesiastes and rocked my soul.
Say not “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.Ecclesiastes 7:10
This has resided on a notecard in my wallet ever since, and it’s a reminder that I need on an almost daily basis. If I find myself desiring something from the past, it often is because I am absorbed in either my pride or my comfort, not a desire to be conformed to the holiness of God.
At the end of the day, what or who are you putting your hope in? What are you expecting to happen if you get what you want?
Only God can satisfy. Only God can give you peace. Only God can save your soul.
The name on that ballot box won’t do anything but let you down. Any “victory” achieved by political ends is but a vapor in the wind that will be gone before you knew you had it.
What, or who, should we be expecting or hoping for?
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,Psalm 62:5 ESV
for my hope is from him.
There is no other way to have peace.
By placing our hope, obedience, faith, and trust in Christ alone will we endure the trials of this world.
He is the only thing worthy of putting our expectations and hope towards.